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Many aspects of the weekend change when kids enter the picture, but one thing endures: the importance of brunch. Sure, brunch might not mean Bloody Marys at 3 p.m. anymore, and “bottomless” might not mean what it used to, either. But a midday meal remains a reliably great way to spend time with friends and family.
Another fact that holds up is that the weekend still isn’t long enough. By the time everyone decompresses from the week and has attended the inevitable birthday party or two, baths need to be taken and backpacks need to be packed again. Multitasking can help parents of young children maximize those precious hours, and herein lies the joyous union of mealtime and socializing, otherwise known as the “brunch playdate.”
Brunch is a great way to get children together in the morning and tire them out before nap time. It also offers a built-in icebreaker for making new parent friends. For kids who are too young for the storied “drop-off” playdate — the Holy Grail that parents of moody toddlers only dream about — the brunch playdate gives the whole family a chance to hang out and get one meal out of the way.
The best part is that you don’t have to put together a complicated menu or inundate with activities to please all parties. Below, I’ve outlined my foolproof method for hosting a fun and relaxed brunch playdate.
The Ultimate Brunch Playdate Menu
Kale and Feta Frittata (see recipe with substitution options below)
Green salad with pecorino and walnuts
Scrambled eggs (for dubious children)
How to Prepare For Your Brunch Playdate
Prepping as much as possible ahead of time is a golden rule of entertaining, and with a menu like this, you can cook and assemble almost the entire meal before the playdate begins. Here’s the breakdown:
Cook the frittata in a cast iron skillet to serve at room temperature or easily reheat right in the pan.
Bake a big batch of bacon on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan in a 400° degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes. (The foil makes for easy clean up and the cook time depends on the thickness of the bacon and how crispy you like it.)
For a simple but elegant salad, toss together greens — arugula, kale, or lettuce — with toasted walnuts. Use a Y-peeler to shave pecorino on top. Then, whisk together and set aside a lemony vinaigrette (two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a grated garlic clove, ¼ teaspoon of sugar, and ½ teaspoon Kosher salt), to mix in just before brunch.
Slice cucumber and carrot spears, dice avocado, and put cherry tomatoes on a plate for kids to take (or parents to serve) at will.
Cut up a variety of fruit — grapes, strawberries, bananas, plums, cantaloupe, mango, or whatever you have on hand — for a fail-safe fruit salad.
Slice bread so it’s ready for the toaster and put out butter and jam.
Finally, set out a bowl and a non-stick skillet for made-to-order scrambled eggs. You’re now 90 percent of the way there and can serve at a moment’s notice.
The Game Plan
A lesser-practiced but no-less-golden rule of entertaining is to make it a communal affair. Many hands — even little ones — make work lighter, so if your guests offer to help or bring something, accept! An extra baked good never hurts, and an inclusive vibe makes "meeting the parents" less stilted. If someone wants scrambled eggs instead of your (beautiful!) frittata, let them help you crack the eggs and whisk. Or, set up a juicing station by slicing citrus fruit down the middle and let kids take turns squeezing oranges for orange juice or lemons for lemonade on an individual citrus juicer. Pouring into small cups helps even a little juice go a long way.
Beyond the food, you’ve got to think of the playdate/party vibes. Perhaps the most important thing is to keep things friendly and relaxed. Toys will be everywhere, and that's okay. Families may show up late or may need to depart abruptly. Okay, too. The whole thing may end in tears! We’ve all been there. It will be a major achievement if an adult can get through one full sentence without feeling a yank on the pant leg or hearing “Mama!” from the other side of the room, so embrace the disjointed conversations and remember that bonds happen just as much over what is not said than what is said.
There are a few things that may boost the communal vibes and keep things running smoothly:
Try a kid-friendly parent playlist. No adult needs to listen to "Let It Go" one more time, so make a playlist that parents will enjoy — as long as the songs aren’t filled with a bunch of expletives. If you dare, invite the kids to DJ. You can always take the wheel again.
Ask parents ahead of time about dietary restrictions. It communicates respect and care.
Don’t be afraid to use paper or plastic plates. (Surely you have some left over from a birthday party.)
Serve food sooner than you might think. It’s better to feed everyone — especially the kids — before hanger strikes, and you’ll leave time to play afterward. You might make the transition from playtime to table-time easier by involving the kids in a task, like juicing, scrambling, or setting the table.
In the end, you may forget some of these tips in the heat of the moment. Who cares? Whatever you pull off will be an accomplishment. No matter which way you slice it, parenting is a journey, and though it may sound daunting to invite people over for brunch, getting families together for a meal and some playtime is a rewarding way to remember we’re all in this together.
Kale and Feta Frittata
Time: 25 minutes
My go-to centerpiece for a brunch playdate is a kale and feta frittata, which I love for its combination of bitter (kale), salty (feta), and sweet (shallot) flavors. Depending on the dietary restrictions or preferences of the crowd, variations abound. Kale is sturdy and makes for a hearty presentation, but spinach works well, too. Goat cheese (use a quarter cup) or cheddar work in place of feta, and for dairy-free friends, eight ounces of sliced mushrooms, cooked until golden brown and added in with the eggs, works great in place of the cheese. Whatever substitutions you make, hold on to the shallot — the unassuming star of this frittata.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 cups kale, chopped
8-10 large eggs
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
Flaky sea salt for garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 350° degrees.
Heat olive oil in a 9-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Add sliced shallot and cook for 5 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally to keep the shallots from burning. Season with salt.
Add kale to skillet and let wilt for 1-2 minutes, stirring once or twice. (The sturdier the green, the longer it will take to wilt.)
Whisk the eggs, season with one teaspoon of salt, and pour them into the skillet. Add the feta and stir to combine. Stir another 30 seconds to 1 minute, scraping a spatula around the side and along the bottom of the pan to let the loose egg contact the hot pan.
Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Remove, garnish with fresh herbs — like parsley, dill, or cilantro — and flaky salt.
Serve warm. Or, let cool, and serve at room temperature. You can also reheat just before serving in a warm oven or on the stove.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Food Stylist: Cesar Aldrete
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez